So I enter the British barbecue last night only to find out it’s a Fourth of July party full of Brits. First off, can we just mention that I forgot it would be Fourth of July when I booked this trip…and also that I forgot it was Fourth of July at all. Bad American.
Prosecco was the key word of that night. Prosecco and barbecue-grilled pineapple. The party was hosted by a New Yorker who recently moved to London. He grilled pineapple, served it, and said it was an American summer snack but I have never seen such a thing in my life. Also, you could really cook anything odd and say it’s from America and people would believe it. The Brits at the party looked like a cast of the Real World mixed with Laguna Beach, but all very London. There was Asante, the barista who invited me to the barbecue, with her pink dress and converse, her girl friends with their mom jeans and loose-fitting jackets, and her guy friends with their button-ups opened and bare chests out.
When you hear London is cool, this is what they mean.
The following day I woke up on a mission: do London things. I yelped high tea, but after I found out it was upwards of £27 at The Orangery or Sketch, I decided on something more lowkey. I told myself I’d go somewhere more “lowkey” like The Muffin Man Tea Shop, but I really only went there cuz a pot of Earl Grey was £3.
I entered solo, obviously cuz I’m here alone, and the blonde hostess near the sign that said “Please Wait To Be Seated” looked at me like I was out place. Oh c’mon, this is the Muffin Man Tea Shop, not the Kensington Palace; and I wasn’t even wearing my camo pants that day.
Can I…uh…sit down?
- Oh. For…uh…one?
Like, talk about making someone feel so awkward and uncomfortable. EXCUSE ME FOR NOT LETTING OTHERS HOLD ME BACK FROM DOING THINGS I WANT TO DO.
- Oh, ok, there’s…uh…a table in the corner there.
I took a seat, but then moved to a table on the outside terrace. I sipped on my Earl Grey looking out at the view (the first photo) and I wondered about why tea is such a thing. I remember reading a Quora article that said people think tea is super healthy but that’s really only because way back in the day, people thought it was healthier than water because you needed to boil it. I enjoyed the experience, but ordered a flat white at the nearest café. Side note: I’ve never been to Australia or New Zealand, where the flat white is said to originate from, but if you’re in the UK, do yourself a favor and order one. Second side note: American flat whites are inferior.
At 4pm, I made my way to Covent Garden where I angrily paid £1 to use a public restroom, and then took a free walking tour. I learned a lot of random trivia like the Queen is not supposed to travel outside of Westminster to London, which is a confusing concept because Westminster is basically inside of Greater London. That’s like saying the Mayor of Beverly Hills can’t go to Los Angeles. Beverly Hills is in Los Angeles. The second most interesting thing I saw was actually a street crosswalk signal with a unisex symbol. An Indian man pointed and his kids said:
Daddy, what’s that mean?
- That you can be a man, woman; have a gender or not, and it’s all okay.
Literal tears in my eyes. That you can be what you want to be, and that it’s okay. Something that may seem so silly to executives or higher-ups in a boardroom talking about Urban Planning can be the reason why the world becomes more tolerant of others. I’m an American traveling in London, amongst other travelers from Italy, India, etc. all on a history tour of London, all interested in learning about each other’s cultures, and most importantly, all coexisting together, happily.
Moment totally over when the man in front of me’s phone beeped. He just found his next Pokemon.
I made my way to the tour guide in the front, because as a solo traveler amongst friends and families traveling together, if I don’t make an effort to make the first part of conversation it probably won’t happen.
So, do you have any idea why you drive on the left in the UK?
Had to ask, since I feel like I’m about to get run over every ten seconds.
He gave the answer I’ve heard before. Back in the Medieval Ages, horse riders traveled on the left to keep their right-hand free for oncoming enemies.
Another solo traveler on the tour overheard I was from Los Angeles, and she asked me what I was doing in London.
Just kind of doing my thing.
She was too. Fresh college grad. From LA. Traveling six weeks solo, because her friend bailed last minute. I told her we’d be great friends.
We made plans to meet up in the next few days.